Hamlet’s Blackberry

| November 22, 2010

Title: Hamlet’s Blackberry : a practical philosophy for building a good life in the digital age
Author: William Powers
Publisher: New York, NY : Harper, c2010.
Check It Out:  HM851 .P688 2010

From the Publisher:  A crisp, passionately argued answer to the question that everyone who’s grown dependent on digital devices is asking: “Where’s the rest of my life?”

At a time when we’re all trying to make sense of our relentlessly connected lives, this revelatory book presents a bold new approach to the digital age. Part intellectual journey, part memoir, Hamlet’s BlackBerry sets out to solve what William Powers calls the conundrum of connectedness. Our computers and mobile devices do wonderful things for us. But they also impose an enormous burden, making it harder for us to focus, do our best work, build strong relationships, and find the depth and fulfillment we crave.

Hamlet’s BlackBerry argues that we need a new way of thinking, an everyday philosophy for life with screens. To find it, Powers reaches into the past, uncovering a rich trove of ideas that have helped people manage and enjoy their connected lives for thousands of years. New technologies have always brought the mix of excitement and stress that we feel today. Drawing on some of history’s most brilliant thinkers, from Plato to Shakespeare to Thoreau, he shows that digital connectedness serves us best when it’s balanced by its opposite, disconnectedness.

Using his own life as laboratory and object lesson, Powers demonstrates why this is the moment to revisit our relationship to screens and mobile technologies, and how profound the rewards of doing so can be. Lively, original, and entertaining, Hamlet’s BlackBerry will challenge you to rethink your digital life.

About the Author: William Powers was born in Arizona and grew up in Rhode Island.  He graduated from Harvard with a degree in history and literature.  After a year in Spain on a graduate fellowship, he worked for several years as a U.S. Senate staff member.  He began his journalism career at The Washington Post where in the 1990s he covered business, politics, popular culture and other subjects.  His widely read Post column, The Magazine Reader, launched his career as a leading thinker and writer on life in the age of information.

His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, McSweeney’s, The Guardian and many other publications.  He created The New Republic’s first media column and for years wrote an influential weekly column for Atlantic Media’s National Journal.  He is known for his lively writing style and his knack for translating complex topics into lucid, engaging prose.  He is a two-time winner of the National Press Club’s Arthur Rowse Award for best American media commentary.

As a fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center in 2006-2007, Powers wrote the groundbreaking essay, “Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Why Paper is Eternal.”  His argument that the latest digital devices have much to learn from a 2,000-year-old tool caught the attention of thoughtful technology-watchers and news outlets around the world.

In 2008 he began writing a book focused on the broader question of how to live wisely and happily in a connected world.  Hamlet’s BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age (HarperCollins, summer 2010) is a crisp, passionately argued answer to the question that everyone who’s grown dependent on digital devices is asking: Where’s the rest of my life?  Powers challenges the widely held assumption that the more we connect through technology, the better. It’s time to strike a new balance, he argues, and discover why it’s also important to disconnect.  Part memoir, part intellectual journey, the book draws on the technological past and such thinkers as Shakespeare, Thoreau and McLuhan.

Hamlet’s BlackBerry is Powers’ first book.  He is married to author Martha Sherrill and they live in Massachusetts with their son.

On the Web:

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Newsweek

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